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When I frequent Goodwill’s and other thrift type second hand shops I always make a point of going through the huge stacks of old VCR and DVD players that are usually present. I do this because I’m usually on the lookout for Laserdisc or Beta players as well as the odd video game console that looks like a VCR or DVD player such as certain models of the CD-i or the Laseractive player. In these searches I often come across “combo players” or machines that can play both VHS tapes and DVD discs. These combo machines make sense as when people were transitioning over to DVD they still had large VHS collections they may of wanted to still hold onto for some time, especially since in the early days of DVD many films had not made the jump to the digital disc.

On one of my thrifting outings not to long ago I can across one of these combo machines and I had almost past it up when I had to take a second glance to confirm what I saw.

brc1

Yes, that’s right. A Blu-ray/VHS combo deck. I was immediately intrigued. After all Blu-ray came out long after the general death of VHS. The second label on the player also grabbed my attention and made me finally give in and pay the $20 some dollars on the price tag.

brc3

That’s right, VHS tapes upconverted to 1080p over HDMI, I had no idea. See back in the 1980’s and 90’s the in heydays of VHS the best video output you could hope for for your VHS tapes was s-video and this was usually only available on rather high end players. Even in Europe where RGB was an accepted standard VCR players only outputted composite and s-video over SCART.

There were tape decks with component but these were very rare and reserved only for editing and broadcast commercial uses and I suspect never sold on a commercial market. I only ever saw one of these players and it was a forum sale over at the Neo Geo forums. Later VHS/DVD combo players sported component outputs for video but these only worked when playing a DVD disc so even with these players you were still limited to s-video at best.

That’s a major reason this player really interested me. The player in question is the Panasonic DMP-BD70V which seems to of been released some time in 2009.

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On the back we have both HDMI and component for video output with only the HDMI being capable of displaying 1080p.

There are a few drawbacks. First off is the machines inability to record via either optical disc or VHS cassette. second is the DMP-BD70V does not support S-VHS in its native resolution but WILL still play and upconvert them. You also really want a remote control if you pick one of these machines up as the buttons on the face of the player are pretty sparse and there is no way to rewind, fast forward or move a cursor in a DVD/Blu-ray menu without one. This player also had some initial freezing issues with Blu-rays but a firmware updated solved many of these problems.

So how does it look? Pretty nice in my opinion. it obviously isn’t going to make 20+ year old VHS tapes you bought in a cardboard box for 50 cents a piece look like a brand new HD Blu-ray release but it does produce a very nice image. I would even say if you have a nice TV and a well maintained VHS tape you can achieve almost DVD like quality.

I did take a few direct captures for comparison.  The VHS player I ran the Panasonic up against is the Toshiba model W-804. This is a later model S-VHS player that supports s-video out as well as being a six head player as opposed to the more common four head.

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Toshiba W-804 frontbrc5Toshiba W-804 rear

I took these captures via an Elgato capture device. The captures from the VHS player are all via s-video and the captures from the combo player are via component. Unfortunately I could not capture 1080p via HDMI because of HDCP and I currently have no means of stripping this protection. The first images in the comparisons are from the VHS player and are marked by the white track numbers.

My Great Capture Screenshot 2016-03-18 11-29-12My Great Capture Screenshot 2016-03-18 11-34-14

My Great Capture Screenshot 2016-03-18 11-29-20My Great Capture Screenshot 2016-03-18 11-34-25

My Great Capture Screenshot 2016-03-18 11-29-23My Great Capture Screenshot 2016-03-18 11-31-05

It may be hard to notice via the images or some of you may actually be preferring the VHS images. depending on your TV’s ability to upconvert the quality can be pretty close when the combo player is placed up against a high end VHS deck but the quality gap increases noticeably in the combo players favor when using lower end VHS decks. Overall I am happy I picked this player up. It’s nice to be able to play all of ones VHS, CD audio, DVD and Blu-ray media on one player and on one HDTV. That said it’s still a niche market machine and likely not very common so If you see one at a good price and need a jack of all trades player or your still holding onto a massive VHS collection grab it.

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4 Comments

  1. Wow! Search ebay for that model number, then look at completed listings. Apparently they are pretty valuable!

    • Wow is right, I had no idea. I guess the $20 I spent at Goodwill was quite a deal then.

        • Particle
        • Posted April 5, 2016 at 08:13
        • Permalink

        You’ll often find the best deals on retro and semi-retro electronics at local establishments. Online, people tend to shop and list things having researched what the market currently values them at. This is often not the case for a local brick and mortar thrift shop or second hand store.

        I’ve had much the same experience with laserdisc players. Online, people ask for hundreds of dollars for the units that are well regarded (often times even if they’re broken), and while I’ve not had the good fortune myself I’ve often read forum posts from other laserdisc users of high-end players they’d found in local thrift shops for a couple dozen dollars.

      • I don’t think I’ve ever seen a LD player at goodwill marked more then $25 and usually much lower. I bought my higher end DVD/LD combo player at a Goodwill for $19.99


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